Basic Car Warning Signs You Should Know By Heart

Updated Nov 17, 2022

When these signs lit up on your dashboard, you must know what they mean!

When you go to a driving school, part of what you’ll learn about or you’ll be asked for is to memorize the car warning symbols or signs that you’ll see on the dashboard. What do you think is the reason behind you knowing these signs by heart? 

Yup, they can save you from trouble, a lot of trouble. Knowing these signs can help keep you safe, teach you how to be a driver that respects other drivers.

Photo of a car's dashboard

As a driver, you should know the meaning behind the warning lights on your dashboard

Now, if you already know what these car signs are, then good. For those who may have forgotten them and their meaning, it’s time for a good, detailed refresher course. We’ll go through the most important ones that you, as a driver, should know by heart.

First, let define the three basic colors that you’ll almost always recognize when you take a look at your car’s dashboard. They are similar to a stop light, and each color has different meaning.

1. Green/Blue (in other cars)

Green means ‘go’ in reference to the stop light, but when it comes to dashboard functionalities, it signals normal vehicle operations – meaning your car is A-OK. Additionally, this color could also mean that you may be low on windshield washer fluid or it could serve as a high beam indicator.

instrument panel with green lights

Green or blue light means that a certain function is being used and the car is in normal condition

The green colored lights include specific symbols such as:

  • Turn signals – these are used to give the vehicles behind you a sign whether you’ll be turning left or right.
  • Daytime running lights – these signals that the car system has activated the low beam headlamps during daylight driving.
  • AWD or All wheel drive – if it’s green, it means that you are running on four wheel drive, meaning torque is distributed across all wheels in an equal manner.
  • ECO – when this is lit, it means that your car is running on ‘fuel economy’, giving your car more mileage on minimal fuel usage. It could also mean that you’re running on sport or comfort gear.

Other dashboard lights that are usually green in color include the following:

  • Engine start and stop – means that this function is in use
  • Interior Light / interior light warning – means that the light inside the vehicle is on and should be turned off when not in use
  • Car charging – it means that the car is connected to a car charging station (applicable if you have an e-car)
  • Car key – means that the key is in the ignition slot and should be removed if you are leaving the car.
  • Full Beam – when lit in green, means that you are using full beam lights and should be turned off if not necessary so as not to affect forthcoming vehicles.
  • Hold / Auto Park Brake – means that the automatic park brake is in on and being used.
  • Fog Light – means that the fog lights are on.
  • Parking sensor – means that the front parking sensor is on and in use.
  • Shift light – shows the recommended shift to use for best fuel economy.

2. Yellow/Orange/Amber

You know what this means for stop lights. It means cross only if you are unable to stop completely. In your car’s dashboard, it usually means that something needs to be checked and repaired as soon as possible.

It could also warn you to drive with extra caution as there’s a part in your vehicle that could potentially be damaged and needs repair.

2.1. Check engine light

This, when lit up means that there is a problem going on with the car’s emission system. If the light is steady, you may need to take your car to your mechanic as soon as you can although not urgently.

While if its blinking, it means that you need to take it for service immediately because it is one of clear symptoms for serious car engine troubles.

A photo of a lit up check engine warning sign

Always be mindful if you see the check engine warning light lit up as it could mean engine trouble

2.2. Engine Power Restriction

When this lights up it means that the engine power is limited due to possible engine error or malfunction. This needs urgent attention by your mechanic for you to be able to use your car normally again.

Reduced Engine power photo on dashboard

You must be aware of this warning light so you can drive more carefully as you get your car checked

3. Red

Red means stop when it comes to stop light. On the other hand, when it comes to dashboard lights, red doesn’t mean good at all – it could mean a potential issue on your car’s safety or a serious car problem that needs immediate attention and that you should take your car directly to the mechanic for checking and repair or even replacement of important parts.

Here are some important car symbols that if lit in red would need attention right away:

3.1. Oil Pressure Warning Light

If this is lit in red, it means super serious car trouble. You should turn your car engine off immediately because if your car is experiencing insufficient oil pressure and supply, it could ruin your engine in just a short period of time.

You should have your oil pump checked right away to make sure that there won’t be any further damage to your car’s engine.

Oil pressure warning light

Oil pressure light is one of the most dangerous warning on your car which should be taken care of right away

3.2. Brake Warning Light

If your brake warning is lit up in red, it could mean two things: you left your parking brake light on or there could be a problem with your car’s brakes. As you know brakes are vital in everyday car use and plays an important part in keeping everyone inside the car safe.

So, once you see this brake warning light lit up on your dashboard have you car checked right away. It could possibly be caused by loss of hydraulic pressure, low brake fluids or broken brake pads.

Brake warning light on dashboard

When brake warning lights up, it means that your car's ability to stop is compromised - have it checked right away.

3.3. Engine Temperature Light

Another important thing to be aware of – when you see your thermometer looking gauge lit up, it means that the engine is in a very high temperature, which is very dangerous. This could be a result of engine coolant leak and the best way to deal with this is turn off the car right away.

Engine temp warning light on dashboard

Having this lit on your dashboard means that you are losing engine coolant

Follow for more useful maintenance tips to take care of your beloved vehicle!

Ivy Kristia Padura

Ivy Kristia Padura


Ivy is one of the first Philkotse's content writers. She finds joy in sharing her driving tips, particular for dealing with heavy traffic in Metro Manila, with other fellow drivers.

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